I recently sat down with Brian Gibson, President and Founder of Elite Media Solutions, Wellesley, Massachusetts to find out how he built a 40-year old business, assembled a winning team, and his advice to the next generation of integrators. This article originally appeared in ProSource Insider, Spring 2017 issue. A TIG publication.
Maureen Jenson: Congratulations on being named Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Integrator of the Year; what do these accolades mean to you and your team?
Brian Gibson: We have been a member of CTA for many years, it is immeasurable the work that they do for their members. Allowing our voices to be heard in Congress, alerting us to issues in the industry and putting together our industry’s largest event: CES.
Receiving this award is pure validation that striving to be and do your very best at every step in the business process truly pays rewards. From conception to completion and especially post installation, the Elite Media Solutions goal is to leave our clients knowing that they made a wise choice in choosing us.
You would think that after 30-plus years in the business, we might sit back. No, we spend countless hours each and every week honing the process, updating and documenting procedures, finding new ways to do our jobs more efficiently. We have added a dedicated client relation’s manager to ensure that we deliver what we promised from start to finish and beyond.
We are one of the highest revenue-to-employee firms in the business today. To achieve such success is a 100% team effort; using documented procedures takes the guesswork out of what to do in any given situation. We are proud that we pay our employees well above industry averages. It took many years to assemble a team that totally and without question understand what it means to be elite.
MJ: How long have you been a ProSource member and why did you join ProSource as opposed to some of the other groups?
BG: Being part of ProSource since 2008, we joined because we wanted to be with the largest most progressive buying group in the country that would have an enormous impact on our business. Sure it’s great to know that you are getting the best pricing out there and it does help our bottom line, but more importantly it’s the people that you meet from all across the country.
These integrators have openly shared their struggles and victories. It has been especially useful for us when this network has not been in our backyard and is not our competition. Helping us to understand that we are not alone with our challenges while we continue to learn new ways to win at what we do. It truly is a family of dealers that care for each other and we are proud to be a member.
MJ: Why is attending the ProSource Summit important to you?
BG: Attending the Summit is such a great chance to strengthen and build new relationships. We learn about the newest technology and trends in the industry and see and talk with vendors in an environment that is not 100% sales focused. Summit truly gives us a chance to have “real” conversations.
MJ: Like Marcus in one of your favorite TV shows, The Profit, you have said it is people, process, products…tell us more about your people. How many employees do you have? And what is the best way to assemble a top-notch team?
BG: We currently have seven employees and we like to hire people new to the business. We like to get them while they are still “green” and then we can teach them the Elite way. One of the best pieces of advice I can give to other professionals, is to not be afraid to hire an employee on a trial basis to make sure that they are a good fit. Sometimes when interviewing it can be hard to tell if someone is going to fit into the culture of the company; this trial period can be crucial.
MJ: When it comes to the in-the-field tech guys, how have you been successful in finding the best?
BG: As I mentioned in the previous question, most of our employees have been with us for years and they have been trained from the ground up. When we look to hire new employees, our focus is not the field that they are coming from, but their work attitude, willingness to learn, and common sense.
MJ: Tell us about why you have partnered with some of your vendors? What do they do to make your life easier? Please go into detail on some of the support you receive.
BG: Vendor relationships are a key part of Elite’s business model and what helps make our business thrive. As a dealer, we found that there is never an opportunity to award a vendor for going above and beyond…so we created the Elite Gear Award! We started the Elite Gear Award, because outstanding partnerships play such an essential role in our success we thought it right to honor those vendors who go the extra mile for us.
Recently, Elite Media Solutions was proud to acknowledge SONY for their exceptional contribution to our business. (We actually implemented two awards to recognize our vendor and top local rep firm, Jarmac Marketing, in an effort to show our appreciation for their outstanding help and support.) The Elite Gear, so named for the pieces that keep any strong machine moving forward, recognizes the top vendor who showed superior business practice and commitment to our core principal.
MJ: Any good anecdotes with vendors? Any good save-the-day stories and shout-outs to exceptional guys and gals?
BG: I have a couple of good shout-outs for a few: We were wrapping up a huge theater job and upsold the client on the SONY 5000 Projector—as they wanted the latest and greatest—and they were just being released. One call to SONY and we got one of the first ones!
Since working with Control4 they have made a tremendous effort to cultivate a relationship with Elite Media Solutions. As we approached our first major Control4 job we felt anxious despite having two certified programmers on the team, one Tech2. Control4 didn’t waste a breath and had a Control4 programmer on site to assist. The experience working with Control4 has just been above and beyond what we would expect from a vendor.
Finally, Access Networks has been wonderful. Selling great product is one thing, but backing it up with amazing support sets them apart from their competitors. When our techs call from the field, Access Networks is always quick to resolve the issue. We have not run into an issue that they could not solve on site, that day, which we love because that means less truck rolls for us.
MJ: Slow, steady, smart sustainable growth has been your road to success. In today’s instant society do you think newbies in our industry have the patience and understanding to follow that example? What advice would you give them?
BG: I would advise them that “Patience is a Virtue”. That they will need to build relationships and reputation continually; it is not an instant, but a constant. They must remember that these are things that need to be worked on every day. They must never give up!
MJ: What advice would you give to your younger self if this was over 30 years ago and you were just starting out?
BG: Add alarm security to your offerings to build reoccurring revenue.
MJ: Can you share where you would like Elite Media Solutions to be in five years?
BG: We would like to achieve 30% growth, with the same high “Elite” standards that we utilize now—quality products, amazing customer service!